How to Identify and Attract a Tree Swallow
Learn how to identify a male and female tree swallow. Find out about their nests, song, range map and what tree swallows eat.
Tree Swallow Facts
Scientific Name: Tachycineta bicolor
Length: 5-3/4 inches
Wingspan: 14-1/2 inches
Distinctive Markings: A male tree swallow is iridescent greenish-blue above and white below. Females may be duller.
How to Identify a Tree Swallow
Courtesy Cynthia Brennan
“I took this photo of a bird (above) at a local park. Can you tell me what it is?” Birds & Blooms reader Cynthia Brennan, Glens Falls, New York
Look for a violet-green swallow in the West.
Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman: Only half the bird is visible here, but that’s enough. The short, wide, flat bill suggests that this is a member of the swallow family. It feeds on flying insects, opening its mouth wide and scooping them from the air in flight. The fact that this bird is looking out of a birdhouse provides another clue. In eastern North America, the only swallows that nest in birdhouses are purple martins and tree swallows. The snowy white throat contrasting with the steel-blue top of the head makes this one a perfect match with the tree swallow.
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Nest and Eggs
The female builds nest in a cavity using grass, needles and feathers, and lays up to eight white eggs. Nest boxes designed for bluebirds also attract this swallow.
Learn more about swallows’ nests and nesting habits.
What Does a Tree Swallow Eat?
The hardiest swallow, it arrives early in spring and even winters over in some localities. When insects are unavailable, the tree swallow feeds mostly on bayberries; some wintering birds have also been seen picking seeds from pond ice. To attract them, grow native plants to attract bugs.
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Tree Swallow Song
Courtesy Anne Duvall
Listen to the tree swallow’s song. Typically an early-morning singer, the song is a pleasant gurgling chatter when in flight.
Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
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Range Map and Habitat
Look for these birds in open areas with scattered trees and water.
Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.
Next, learn how to make a purple martin gourd house.